Jun 04 2008

A Short Story

Published by at 10:02 pm under News

The house seems unusually quiet as I stand looking out of the window from my parent’s upstairs bedroom. An old neighbour passes by down below with her head bent against the drizzling rain. She has her shopping bag tucked tightly underneath her arm as she struggles to retain her footing. Her headscarf is tightly knotted under her chin as she squints through eyes that have long ago lost their bright twinkle of youth. Is she the woman that my mother told me about whose husband had left home and gone to England in search of work? According to my mother he was working alright, working on a second family. He never came back to his wife and family here. My memory begins to play tricks as I’m transported back in time and I see two of my sisters playing swings on the lamp-post near our house. The rope wraps itself tightly around the lamp as the girls let out squeals of delight. The girl next door with the patch over one eye is playing with a skipping rope. She almost falls to the ground as her toe catches the rope which then twists around her foot. I shout to her to be careful but of course she can’t hear me. Her pals play Piggy Beds on the footpath outside our gate. A young boy dashes past her pushing his bicycle hoop with a small stick. As he looks behind he can see Geronimo and a whole tribe of Indians chasing after him. He almost knocks one of the girls off balance as she skips from one square of the Piggy Bed to the next. She appears to move in slow motion as she grabs hold of the nearby railings to gain her composure. In the distance I can hear the Coal Man shouting out in rhythm to the clip clop of his horse’s hoofs. One of my older brothers runs out with a bucket in his hand to get it filled with just enough coal to light our fire. One of his socks keeps slipping down his leg and he stops after every few steps to pull it back up again. My mother hasn’t got enough money for a full bag of coal. The few pieces of turf that we have will compliment the coal later on as the evening turns cold. The fire won’t be lit until a few minutes before my father is due home. A shiver runs down my spine as a squall of rain hits the bedroom window and brings me back to reality. As I turn away from the window to leave the room I suddenly see myself sitting in a corner by the  fireplace next to my brother, both of us sitting as quiet as little mice. The flames from the burning fire scorch our tiny little spindly legs as we listen to the gentle voice of our mother telling us stories of her childhood days. She is sitting propped up in her bed gently cradling the latest edition to our family. The rest of her young brood sit gazing into the coloured flames of the fire as it hisses and burns my father’s old shoes, shoes that were too tired and worn out to be of any use to him. That’s how my father said he felt when he had to retire from his job, tired and worn out. As I turn again to the bedroom window I suddenly hear voices raised in song coming along the street. It’s a May Procession and its coming down our road. The local Boy Scouts are leading the parade carrying a Virgin Mary statue. One of the Scouts isn’t as tall as the other three and struggles to hold up his side of the statue. The Parish Priest seems oblivious to any distractions around him. He appears to be in a state of religious euphoria. Holy Mary however turns her head about and smiles at the crowds of cheering neighbours. For a very brief moment I was sure that she looked up at our window and gave me a wink. Slowly the singing voices fade off into the distance and all becomes quiet as before. As I turn away from the bedroom window I’m confronted by a metal grill in front of my face. I’m suddenly surrounded by darkness and an old familiar smell of burning incence is circulating about my head. It is then that I realise I’m in a Confession Box. Behind the sliding wooden window I can hear the Priest breathing and muttering to himself. My nose is pressed up against the metal grill and my little bare knees are sore from kneeling on the wooden floor. I can feel my heart hammering and pounding inside my little chest. Suddenly the shutter opens with a bang and I’m overcome by the smell of whiskey from the Priest. ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned, well I think I have. It’s donkey years since my last confession’. My mind goes into auto pilot as I tell him a load of lies about things I didn’t do. I begin to stutter with nerves when the Priest slams the shutter and throws me into total darkness once again. I can’t remember what he said to do for my penance but it sounded like ‘where’s that bloody bottle gone’. I then find myself back in my parent’s bedroom. The rain has finally stopped and the time has come for me to leave. I look across the room and see the two little boys waving me goodbye. My mother also smiles up at me from the comfort of her bed. From the bathroom across the way I can hear my father singing. He must be shaving because that’s the only time he sings in the bathroom. ‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…’ I take one last look back into my parent’s bedroom and everything is still and quiet and empty.

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